Program Notes for 17& 18 March 2007

A Musical Banquet

Final courses: Desserts et Fromages (Desserts and Cheeses)

Trio sonata in E minor, op. 3. no. 4...................................................................... Jacques Hotteterre le Romain (1674-1763)
Prélude: Gravement
Fugue: Gay
Grave
Gigue

oboe, violin, basso continuo

 

1 e Concert, from Pièces de clavecin en concerts............................................................. Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
La Coulicam: Rondement
La Livri: Rondeaux gracieux
Le Vézinet: Gaiement, sans vitesse


violin, viola da gamba, harpsichord

Sonata in C major ......................................................................................................Francesco Barsanti (c. 1690-c. 1755)
Adagio
Allegro
Largo
Presto

recorder, basso continuo

 

*****intermission*****

Sonata in F major.............................................................................. Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (c. 1666-1729)
[Prélude]
Preste—Adagio—Presto
Aria
Adagio

violin, basso continuo

 

Trio Sonata in E minor .........................................................................................................Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780)
Tempo giusto
Allegro
Largo
Allegro assai

oboe, violin, basso continuo

Over the course of our 2006/2007 season, we’ve assembled a sumptuous and, we hope, satisfying musical feast. To recapitulate: in September we whetted your appetite with “apéritifs and hors d’oeuvres” by relatively unfamiliar composers, then moved on in November to the soup course, featuring works by such beloved masters as Bach and Handel. In January, for our main course, we had the honor of welcoming gambist Mary Springfels as this year’s guest artist. Now, at long last — for those of you who might have been missing our traditional intermission cookies! — we bring you desserts et fromages: desserts and cheeses. And we would be remiss if we didn’t say a big “thank you” to our Gentlemen’s Auxiliary for their delectable and creative contributions to our banquet.

While this weekend’s concert theme has inevitably sparked a certain amount of irreverent speculation among us as to which pieces on the program are sweet, saccharine, or just cheesy, we will leave it to you, the audience, to form your own musico-gastronomic associations. Suffice it to say that we’ve chosen a variety of musical treats from France, Italy, and Germany. And, given France’s pre-eminence in the realm of international cuisine, it’s perhaps fitting that three of our five selections — by Hotteterre, Jacquet de la Guerre, and Rameau — came from that country.

Jacques Hotteterre, the best-known member of a large family of instrument makers, performers, and composers, is noted for his contributions to the literature of the transverse flute, including the first published method for that instrument. As a composer Hotteterre was fluent in both the French and the Italian idioms. His Sonates en trio for two treble instruments and continuo are rather transparently modeled, in their formal structure, on the sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli. In the e-minor sonata that we’re performing, the Italian influence can also be found in the use of imitative counterpoint, not to mention the concluding gigue — really an Italian giga! But this music is unmistakably French as well: the dotted rhythms of the Prélude suggest a French overture, and the tender, somewhat restrained Grave begs for the use of notes inégales , a characteristically French technique whereby evenly-notated rhythms are gently “swung.”

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, a protégée of Louis XIV (and, incidentally, the first French woman to compose an opera), was also influenced by Italian styles. But unlike the Hotteterre trio sonata with its four discrete and unified movements, her F-major violin sonata alludes to the 17th-century Italian model of continuous sections that contrast dramatically, and abruptly, in tempo, meter, and mood. Italianisms predominate, for example, in the virtuosic “Preste” that opens the second movement, as well as in the Adagios, which call the violinist to impassioned flights of improvisatory fantasy. In contrast, the Aria has the simple, even naïve, character of a folk song — or perhaps of a French air de cour . Jacquet de la Guerre is noted for her original and often daring harmonic practice; her penchant for shifts between major and minor modalities is especially evident in this sonata.

Ironically, one of the most Italianate of French Baroque composers chose a new and characteristically French form, the accompanied keyboard suite, for his only instrumental chamber works. Jean Philippe Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin en concerts are a virtuoso tour de force for the obbligato harpsichord; in fact, Rameau states in his preface that they may be performed as harpsichord solos without the accompanying violin and viola da gamba. (That said, it has been suggested that the accompanied keyboard sonata and suite were invented to accommodate amateur harpsichordists who couldn’t play trio sonatas because of the difficulty of playing from a figured bass!) In contrast to the straightforward titles — typically, tempo indications or names of dances — given to the movements of the Hotteterre and Jacquet de la Guerre sonatas, Rameau’s titles are often cryptic and, even when they aren’t, may or may not have anything to do with the music. One title whose meaning is uncertain is “La Coulicam,” given to the first movement of the suite, or concert , that we’re performing. “Coulicam” may or may not be a Gallicized spelling of “Kublai Khan,” but the piece does seem to evoke 18th-century European notions of the exotic East (compare, for example, Mozart’s “Turkish music”). The elegiac rondeau “La Livri” is most likely a tombeau , or memorial piece, composed in honor of the deceased Comte de Livry, and “Le Vézinet” refers to a suburb of Paris.

Leaving France, we proceed to Italy and beyond. Born in Lucca, Francesco Barsanti emigrated to the British Isles, where he married a Scottish woman and worked in Edinburgh and in London. Besides sonatas, concerti grossi, and orchestral overtures, Barsanti arranged a number of Scots songs for melody instrument and continuo, and his overtures also incorporate the Scottish idiom. The C-major recorder sonata on our program is in a more purely-Italian style — or, rather, in the international galant style of the late 18th century. There are also touches of the Empfindsamerstil (“sensitive style,” perhaps better characterized in some instances as the “quirky style”) of C.P.E. Bach — for example, in the extravagant written-out ornaments of the opening movement and in the infectious, off-center rhythms of the finale.

We bring our musical banquet to a close with a trio sonata by Johann Ludwig Krebs, an accomplished organist and a pupil of none other than Johann Sebastian Bach, for whom he also worked as a copyist. Given this background, Krebs naturally acquired a thorough grounding in counterpoint that informs not only his more conservative Bachian works, but also his more forward-looking, galant pieces including the trio sonatas. Our selection, written for 2 flutes (we’re using recorder and violin) and continuo, has an irresistible gypsy-like flavor and, like the Barsanti sonata, at times seems more empfindsam than galant . In any event Bach surely had cause to be proud of this student, to whom a contemporary punningly referred as the only “crayfish” (in German, Krebs ) caught in “this great stream” (in German, Bach ). Not exactly consistent with our “dessert” metaphor, of course, but still a fine catch for a musical feast!

 

 

return to home page.